Harris warns of recruitment freeze if health managers refuse to outline budgets

HSE letter warns of jobs freeze because of financial pressures


Minister for Health Simon Harris has said a recruitment ban will be introduced in the health service, but only where managers have failed to outline their budget plans.

In a letter sent to senior officials on March 29th, the deputy director general of the HSE Liam Woods said the decision to bring in a freeze was being taken on the back of financial pressures in the system and because of the “need to live within the resources provided.”

Speaking after reports that the freeze would be brought in across the health service, Mr Harris said he had spoken to the HSE about the matter on Sunday.

Mr Harris told The Irish Times: “We have increased the number of nurses, doctors and therapists every year. That will continue this year. I have spoken to the HSE today, who have assured me recruitment restrictions will not be introduced unless hospital managers fail to outline their budget plans. Health managers need to submit recruitment plans and credible plans will be supported.

“Groups that do not submit such plans need to be scrutinised. We allocated a €16 billion budget to the health service and it is important that budgets are adhered to. The 2019 Service Plan allows for recruitment across the health service.”

In his letter, Mr Woods said the preference of the HSE was to have the measure in place for as short a period of time as is possible.

“The HSE directorate has made a decision to introduce recruitment restrictions where necessary for a three-month period pending clarity on plans for 2019 and financial performance in quarter one 2019.

“The decision is based upon the financial pressure in the system arising from the high levels of recruitment in 2018 and the consequential impact in 2019 and the need to live within the resources provided to the HSE and set out in the national service plan.”

He said the decision has been notified to the Department of Health.

‘Control arrangements’

“Additional development posts will continue to be recruited under existing control arrangements but all other recruitment will pause.”

“The intention is to have a brief three-month period of consolidation, ie to end June or earlier where a balanced plan is received and accepted before then and is showing evidence of delivery.”

The letter says that in the second half of the year, “vigilance will be maintained to ensure we enter 2020 with a sustainable level of staffing.”

“The preference is that the additional control will be in place for as short a period as necessary.”

Labour TD Alan Kelly, who published the letter on Sunday morning, said the plan was “unacceptable.”

A Government source said that the plan was an effort to ensure hospital managers are appropriately recruiting.

Hospitals which have already sent in their recruitment plans can proceed with those, but those hospitals that have not will have to pause recruitment until the HSE is satisfied it is within budget. The aim of this is to ensure that there is no significant over-run in the health service this year, as there has been in previous year, the source said.